The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway by Brian Leon / CC BY-ND 2.0

North Carolina offers pristine beaches, striking mountains, waterfalls, and much more. Nature and landscape photographers can find plenty to love here. On this page you’ll find information on some of the most noteworthy locations in North Carolina for photographing. The interactive map below shows the location of each spot mentioned on this page.

This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.

Find great places to photograph in any state! We have similar guides for each state to help you find all of the best places to photograph. See the index page to find the guides for each state.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beautiful in all seasons, and is a favorite of many landscape photographers. There are plenty of trails and great photos waiting to be captured. The park lies in both North Carolina and Tennessee, and here we will look at some of the noteworthy spots in the North Carolina section of the park. For a detailed look at the park please see our Photography Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Big Creek

While Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides plenty of stunning mountain vistas, the creeks and rivers that flow through the park are equally beautiful. Explore Big Creek on the Big Creek Trail, or take the more intense 16-mile Big Creek Loop.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Big Creek by Brian Stansberry / CC BY 3.0

Mouse Creek Falls

Mouse Creek Falls can be reached via the Big Creek Trail. This 4-mile roundtrip hike will also take you past Midnight Hole, another popular spot in the park.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Mouse Creek Falls by Wncoutdoors / CC BY-SA 3.0

Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill and the Mountain Farm Museum are located near the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center.

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The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Mingus Mill by Jody Claborn / Public Domain

Baxter Creek Trail

Baxter Creek Trail starts at the Big Creek campground and is a challenging, steep six-mile hike. The trail leads through beautiful and dense forest.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Baxter Creek Trail by Miguel Vieira / CC BY 2.0

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway extends for 469 miles in Virginia and North Carolina between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, and if you’re looking for a relaxing drive through the mountains this is an excellent choice. Along the way there are plenty of overlooks and vistas to capture memorable photos. There are also trails that you can access from the Blue Ridge Parkway if you want to get a different vantage point.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway by Brian Leon / CC BY-ND 2.0

Blue Ridge Parkway by PublicDomainPictures / CC0

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Craggy Gardens by Selena N. B. H. / CC BY 2.0

Crabtree Falls

The Crabtree Falls & Meadows Recreation Area is located at mile 339.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll need to take about a 3-mile roundtrip hike to see Crabtree Falls, but this beautiful 70-foot cascade is worth the effort.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Crabtree Falls by ForestWander.com

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a 200-mile stretch of peninsulas and barrier islands off the coast. The area is a popular vacation destination, but it is also a good spot for photography. With plenty of beautiful beaches and several picturesque lighthouses, photographers can find plenty to like here. The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway is a great starting point, and we’ll also mention some specific points of interest below.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Near the northern end of the Outer Banks, the red brick Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a great subject for photography. Photograph the lighthouse itself, or climb the steps to the top for an awesome panoramic view.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Currituck Lighthouse by nophun201 / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nags Head

Nags Head is home to beautiful beaches and sand dunes.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head by TriangleREVA / CC BY-ND 2.0

Jockey’s Ridge at Nags Head, home of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, is the largest sand dune on the east coast. This is a very popular spot for recreation, and a good place for photographs as well.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Jockey’s Ridge by daveynin / CC BY 2.0

Bodie Island Lighthouse

South of Nags Head is Bodie Island and the Bodie Island Lighthouse. This 165-foot lighthouse is on the Roanoke Sound side of the island.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Bodie Island Lighthouse by William Greene / CC BY 2.0

Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras is a popular spot within the Outer Banks. It is home to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

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The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse by betancourt / CC BY 2.0

Cape Lookout National Seashore

At the southern end of the Outer Banks, Cape Lookout National Seashore includes three undeveloped islands. You’ll need to take a short ferry ride to reach it, but the seclusion and beauty is ideal for photographs. The black and white diamond shapes on the lighthouse give it a unique look.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Cape Lookout Lighthouse by Brian D Bell / GNU Free Document License

Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle is on the Bogue Banks and is west of the southern end of Cape Lookout National Seashore. This is another popular location for vacations, and a great place to capture beach and coastal photos.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Emerald Isle by Evonne / CC BY 2.0

Linville Gorge

The Linville Gorge Wilderness area in western North Carolina is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The deep (2,000 feet) gorge around the Linville River provides challenging hiking opportunities and great scenery.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Linville Gorge by Ken Thomas / Public Domain

Grandfather Mountain

Also in western North Carolina, not far from the Linville Gorge Wilderness, is Grandfather Mountain. Photograph the mountain from a distance, or visit the mountain and photograph the view. The rugged terrain and rocky summit is ideal for photography. Grandfather Mountain State Park occupies part of the mountain.Grandfather Mountain is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Grandfather Mountain by Larry Lamb / CC BY-SA 2.0

Whitewater Falls, Jocassee Gorge

In southern North Carolina, the Jocassee Gorge is home to Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains with a total drop of more than 800 feet (400 feet each for the upper and lower falls). A short paved walkway leads to an excellent view of the upper falls. You can also take some steps to a lower viewpoint with an equally-amazing view.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Whitewater Falls by Daniel Hass / CC BY-SA 3.0

DuPont State Forest

The DuPont State Forest in western North Carolina is home to several waterfalls and great hiking opportunities. While there are a number of recreational possibilities, photographs should consider taking the DuPont waterfalls hike. This scenic area was used for filming parts of The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Hooker Falls by Michael Sprague / CC BY-SA 2.0

Yates Mill

Yates Mill is a restored mill located near Raleigh, and is part of Yates Mill County Park.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Yates Mill by Larry Lamb / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hickory Nut Gorge, Chimney Rock

Hickory Nut Gorge in southwestern North Carolina is a picturesque 14-mile-long canyon, with Chimey Rock providing a great view. Chimney Rock State Park offers hiking trails, amazing views, and the 400-foot Hickory Nut Falls. The falls can be seen from US Highway 64 outside of the park, or you can take the 1.5 mile roundtrip hike within the park to the base of the falls.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Chimney Rock by Jmturner / Public Domain

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge lies in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia. These forested wetlands are perfect for photography, There are trails available for hiking, and on the Virginia side Lake Drummond and Lake Drummond Wildlife Drive are perfect for exploring.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Great Dismal Swamp by USFWS / CC BY 2.0

Biltmore

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is an 8,000-acre estate and the Biltmore House is the largest privately-owned house in the United States (built in 1895). The beautiful architecture and gardens provide plenty of photographic opportunities.

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

Biltmore Estate by Smart Destinations / CC BY-SA 2.0

Want to learn more about neighboring states? Please see:

The Best Places to Photograph in North Carolina

License links: CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY 2.0, CC BY 3.0CC BY-ND 2.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC0, GNU Free Document LicensePublic Domain

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